‘AI brings new opportunities’

Although job displacement will be likely because of artificial intelligence (AI), there will still be many opportunities for growth and development.

This is according to Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Senator Chad Blackman, who said many Barbadians must retool so they can capitalise on the possibilities that will arise.

“There will be job losses in the context of AI but it equally presents new opportunities, so whilst in the short term there will be dislocation, we have to now reposition ourselves to ask ourselves what are the new opportunities for growth and development in terms of jobs and businesses.

“In every dislocation comes opportunity and if we can get our people and our systems to be in that direction, I think we would be in the right direction for sure,” Blackman said.

He was speaking to the media yesterday during a break in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) workshop at Accra Beach Resort and Spa, Rockley, Christ Church.

The workshop was held under the theme: Building Economic Resilience Through
South-South Cooperation And Targeted Policy Strategies

Delivering the feature address, Blackman highlighted many of the threats affecting small island developing states (SIDs), including climate change and access to financing. He stressed how important digitising the economy will be.

The senator made reference to a comment by American film-maker Tyler Perry who said AI would impact the $800 million investment he was set to make to his Georgia studio.

Blackman said like Perry, Barbadians would have to readjust their plans.

“We have to plan and readjust our strategies, our development prospects in the context of technology. We are always in the mode of catching up historically as a region because of historical realities. We are still trying to catch up with digital realities and now the world has leapt towards AI . . . we have a chance that AI has now made it easier for everybody to have the access to technology.

“You don’t have to be a programmer to access AI, you have it in your hands, but the question is, how do we get our people to think and use it to create a new frontier of development? While it’s our culture to have people study medicine, law and management, we have to get people studying anything their mind can conceive. We have to have a knowledge-based economy. It will call for a complete rethink but it is not beyond us,” he added.

During the opening ceremony of the two-day workshop, Chinese Ambassador Yan Xiusheng, principal at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies Professor Clive Landis, and director of UNCTAD’s globalisation and development strategies division Richard Kozul-Wright also made contributions.

Xiusheng pledged his country’s commitment to supporting development initiatives across the world.

“China works actively to enhance solidarity and cooperation of the global south. China has been doing its best to provide more public goods to the world. From the Belt and Road Initiative, to the Global Security Initiative to the Global Civilisation Initiative, China has stayed committed to cooperation, openness and equality and contributed its share to meeting the global challenges.

“It is important for the Chinese government to support the sustainable development goals and the sustainable development of other developing countries,” he said.

Kozul-Wright said although they made progress, especially with the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, developed countries still had a bigger part to play in assisting SIDs attempting to recover from natural threats and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Building resilience to economic shocks is particularly important for SIDs, including Barbados, as limited domestic markets make them more vulnerable to downside consequences of such shocks, a challenge that is compounded by the climate crisis which the international community has not yet sufficiently come to terms with.

“The achievement of a Loss and Damage Fund was a significant one, at COP28 in Dubai, but so far the commitment of the international community to providing resources for that fund has been well short of expectations, and certainly the needs of developing countries that do suffer from climate shocks,” he said.

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